Saturday, 16 May 2009

Axis Theatre - The Built Stage Set

Client: Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)
Sponsor: DirectGov, British Arts Council & The National Lottery
Location: Island Gardens, Greenwich/Isle of Dogs
Project: Thrust Theatre (708 seats) incorporating a Cafe and Landscaped Roof

The Axis Theatre is a contemporary theatre situated in Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs in London. It has a seating capacity of 708 and is capable of hosting plays,ballets, operas, musicals, pantomimes and small concerts. The use of the theatre is centred around a market of various companies that are invited in to perform for contracted amounts of time to increase the range of productions and appeal to both foreign and native visitors. The building is comprised of a main auditorium that houses a thrust theatre with a glazed backdrop to reveal the infamous Greenwich axis as a stage set. This view is also expressed by a vast roofscape over the main auditorium that is adjoined by a public, open-air, informal amphitheatre and a cafe. The scheme proposal is in keeping with the intentions of the Greenwich development initiative to "maintain & enhance key views & provide an attraction for tourists, in turn creating a culturally richer setting and increased employment."

The inspiration for the design of the project sets its roots in a study that commenced in the "public" piazzas of Rome. The study was centred around the transformation of explicitly public performances spaces of ancient Rome to the now "open-private" spaces enjoyed predominantly by tourists and visitors.

Careful consideration was given to the physicality of spaces and the manipulation of views that buildings enforce through their adjacencies, fabric, orientation and interpretation. The teachings of the analyses in Rome manifest themselves in the design of a theatre that intertwines the more private realm of a commercial theatre production with the public setting of a park that is enhanced by outdoor performance facilities, a viewing platform/recreational space and a cafe. This is achieved by creating a space that acknowledges and enhances its built surroundings and axial setting (Greenwich axis) whilst imposing a minimal impact on the landscape and its current use.

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